NASA and White House officials are announcing plans today (Jan. 8) to keep the International Space Station running through at least 2024 — a four-year life extension for the largest spacecraft ever built.
The NASA decision will allow scientists to use the International Space Station for at least the next 10 years, maximizing the science return on the $100 billion orbiting laboratory, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's chief of exploration and human spaceflight operations, said in a teleconference. Previous lifetime projections for the space station called for it be shut down in 2020.
The largest solar sail ever constructed is headed for the launch pad in 2014 on a mission to demonstrate the value of "propellantless propulsion"— the act of using photons from the sun to push a craft through space.
Space agency scientists are developing two separate mission concepts to assess, and learn how to exploit, stores of water ice on the moon and other lunar resources. The projects — called Lunar Flashlight and the ResourceProspector Mission — are notionally targeted to blast off in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and aim to help humanity extend its footprint out into the solar system.